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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Babes In Toyland: To Mother


BABES IN TOYLAND: TO MOTHER (1991)

1) Catatonic; 2) Mad Pilot; 3) Primus; 4) Laugh My Head Off; 5) Spit To See The Shine; 6) Ripe; 7) The Quiet Room.

A 22-minute long EP here, worth a brief separate review not only because it is almost as long as an early Beach Boys album, but also because it is a relatively important «evolutionary step» from Spanking Machine to Fontanelle. The songs are allegedly all outtakes from the Spanking Ma­chine sessions, but they were re-recorded in the wake of the Babes' joint European tour with Sonic Youth, and some additional influence might be discernible — not a very good influence, I'm afraid, but one that guides the band into a denser jungle of subconscious libidinous metaphors and into exploring distorted noise from an «artsy» standpoint rather than just using it as a direct reflection of being pissed off.

Which is all right for Sonic Youth, I guess — these guys started out with just such an agenda, and gradually got better and better at it — but a little out of the league of Kat Bjelland and her assis­tants. Maybe she can write lyrics that are on par with Sonic Youth (it doesn't take a rocket scien­tist to master that style), but trying to put a «depth-and-subtlety» sheen over the one and only thing that Babes In Toyland do real good — waging post-pubescent hysteria — is an inadequate decision, to say the least. Particularly if it translates into the presence of boring arpeggiated ins­trumentals (ʽThe Quiet Roomʼ, sounding like a mediocre San Franciscan band transplanted into the 1990s), or into letting the drummer girl take another abysmal lead vocal (ʽPrimusʼ) even after the misfortune of ʽDoggʼ clearly showed the insanity of the idea.

There are two songs here still firmly rooted in the «old» style — loud, aggressive, demonic, hy­sterical. ʽMad Pilotʼ is somewhat spoiled by excessive reverb on some of the vo­cals, but the main brutal, simplistic riff makes up for it, and the overdubbed guitar noises actually make sense, imi­tating an airplane out of control, a fairly suitable image for the band. Even more «traditional» is ʽRipeʼ, with (almost) no overdubs, great screechy vocals and total delirium all around.

On the other hand, ʽCatatonicʼ is already erasing the distinctions between early Babes and early Hole, introducing elements of «doom-and-gloom» that may not be totally healthy — in fact, let the virus spread a bit and watch a normal person transform into a Lizard King. To look at it from a different side, when the opening lines to your album go "I know the sugar plum fairy / Her name is Mary / She's halfway inside my arm / Half way does great harm", this is a notably diffe­rent story from "Why do you make me feel so bad? / Why do you bother to act so sad?". And the difference in the music is quite comparable as well — minor tonalities, somber dirge moods, zombie atmospherics. I don't really want this from Bjelland.

That said, this is only the beginning of the change. Even ʽCatatonicʼ eventually picks up steam, and ʽLaugh My Head Offʼ gallops along to a hilarious chorus (with echoes of Siouxsie & The Banshees rather than Sonic Youth this time), so the only genuine turds on the EP are the two tracks mentioned at the beginning — the major problem is the length, making it a rather resource-ineffective proposition to go hunting for the EP.

Check "To Mother" (CD) on Amazon
Check "To Mother" (MP3) on Amazon

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